Court Permits Wrongful Death Claim to Proceed after Personal Injury Judgment Had Been Awarded Based on Defendant’s Same Negligent Conduct

The Maryland Supreme Court recently affirmed a lower court’s decision allowing the family of a deceased child to pursue a wrongful death claim against a negligent medical provider who allegedly caused the death of their son. The case is unique because the son, before his death, had already collected a substantial award of damages from the defendant, based on his own personal injury claim. As a result of the most recent ruling, the parents of the child will not be prevented from pursuing their own wrongful death claim for damages, although the boy himself had already received damages based on the defendant’s wrongful conduct.

Alleged Medical Mistakes Result in the Plaintiffs’ Child Being Born With Severe Disabilities

The plaintiffs in the case of Spangler v. McQuitty are the parents of a boy who was born with severe disabilities in May 1995. A personal injury lawsuit was filed on the boy’s behalf that alleged the doctor who delivered the child failed to gain the informed consent of his mother before delivering the child, which resulted in a complete placental abruption birth injury and the child’s development of severe cerebral palsy. After a jury trial on the child’s claim, he was awarded damages for his injuries, lost future wages, pain and suffering, and future medical expenses.

After the Child Dies, His Parents File a Separate Wrongful Death Action on Their Own Behalf

At some point after the personal injury case was filed, the child passed away as a result of his severe disabilities. Subsequently, his parents filed a separate cause of action against the defendant, alleging that his negligent actions proximately resulted in the premature death of their child and seeking damages to compensate them for their mental anguish and grief related to their loss. In response to the lawsuit, the defendant argued that he had already been held accountable for his act of negligence in the personal injury lawsuit that was previously decided and could not be held accountable again for the same conduct. The trial court agreed with the defendant’s arguments, causing the parents to appeal.

Appellate Courts Rule that the Parents’ Cause of Action Is Not Precluded by the Personal Injury Case

In the initial appellate ruling, which was ultimately upheld by the state supreme court, the court found that the parents’ lawsuit based on the loss of their child was separate and distinct from the previously decided personal injury action filed by the child. Primarily, the plaintiff in the personal injury action was the child himself, while the plaintiffs in the wrongful death action were his parents. Although the court permitted the parents’ claim to proceed toward a trial, it was made clear that the same exact damages cannot be awarded twice, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or the boy’s pain and suffering. In making this ruling, the courts protected the parents’ ability to collect damages for their own loss, which was not an option in the boy’s personal injury case.

Should a Case Be Filed As a Personal Injury Claim, a Wrongful Death Claim, or a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Wrongful acts by physicians or medical providers that result in injury or death may be actionable under different legal doctrines, and the plaintiff’s decision of how to proceed with the lawsuit may affect their ability to recover damages. A Florida medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in some instances, but victims and their family members may only be able to collect one set of damages from a defendant, even if the victim dies after the initial lawsuit is resolved.

As occurred in the Spangler case, a Florida personal injury claim may be filed in some cases to collect damages on behalf of the victim, and a subsequent wrongful death claim may be possible after a victim dies, seeking specific damages suffered by the victim’s family. Victims of medical negligence should consult with a qualified Florida negligence attorney to determine a way to maximize their claim for compensation.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Medical Malpractice Incident?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice or negligence, the experienced South Florida negligence attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can help you pursue a claim to collect damages as compensation for your loss. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we guide people in the Miami area and South Florida in medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death cases. Contact us and schedule a free consultation. Call toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our online form to set up a meeting today. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Case Filed after Fatal Skateboarding Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 30, 2016.

State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Medical Malpractice Plaintiff’s Attempt to Extend Statute of Limitations, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 15, 2016.

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